The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on Tuesday said it planned to sustain its current partnership with universities, as it was vital for the conduct of free, fair and credible elections in Nigeria.
Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, Chairman, INEC, said this at a Post 2019 General Election Review Meeting with Collation and Returning Officers in Lagos.
Yakubu said that the commission was convinced that the roles of the Vice Chancellors were unique.
“Only those who are involved will appreciate what it means to conduct elections in Nigeria. Election in Nigeria is heavily dependent on the Universities.
“If not for the Vice Chancellors, where else can we have the pool of serious minded and credible Nigerians for such an onerous responsibility?
“Your products in the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) who are serving nationwide are the bulk of election duty staff at the polling unit level.
“I believe that the partnership with the Universities is critical, but like every human endeavor, there is room for improvement, ” he said.
Yakubu appreciated the services and sacrifices Vice Chancellors, even in the face of violent confrontations.
” We saw the way you handled the violent confrontations by partisan actors on election day.
“We have also seen the social media assault and regrettably, in some cases, even physical assault.
“We remember the sleepless nights, the media exposure, the criticisms, the condemnations, the commendations and in some cases, recognition earned after the elections, ” he said.
The INEC Chairman urged the vice chancellors to speak up about their experiences on the successes and challenges encountered in the just concluded general elections.
He said it would enable the Commission device ways of improving the electoral system.
Also speaking, Dr Mustafa Lecky, National Commissioner and Chairman, Planning Monitoring and Strategy Committee (PMSC), said that the meeting was to comprehensively evaluate the conduct of the 2019 polls.
Lecky said the evaluation would facilitate a review of policies and programmes implemented during the polls to create inputs for a roadmap for future elections.
“INEC is undertaking these series of exercises and review meetings as part of its comprehensive SWOT (Strength, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis. “he said.
In her remarks, Ms Monica Frassoni, President, European Centre for Electoral Support (ECES), described the role of collation and returning officers during elections as crucial
She said: “The interest of so many stakeholders rest on your skills, experience, integrity and bravery.
“Through your support to the democratic process, there is also a very clear mark of your commitment to your country.
“It was a matter of very big regret and perhaps a little surprise that some of you and your colleagues found yourselves under certain pressure and attacks in several parts of the country, with the attendant consequences.
“We are working in several countries of the world and we do understand and see that the situation in Nigeria is particularly challenging.”
The Lagos State Resident Electoral Commissioner, Mr Sam Olumekun, revealed that the state recruited 60,560 ad hoc staff in various capacities to deliver the 2019 general elections.
He said the Commission organised similar review meeting to receive feedback from operators and stakeholders to enable it to re-engineer its services.(NAN)